Monday, June 05, 2006
Between the Pages of Books
Because almost all the books I buy are used, I sometimes find objects in them. Never any money, alas, but also never any cigarette butts. The fragrance of a previous owner's pipe tobacco perfumes the pages of some of my books. In older books I not infrequently find pressed flowers or tree leaves, which I leave undisturbed. Once in a while I find letters, including some letters to and from Ben Ames Williams (1889-1953) in a translation of Victor Hugo's book on Shakespeare, and recently a very moving billet-doux, which it would be too voyeuristic to quote.
I share Patrick's dislike for marginalia and underlining in books. I erased notes and underscores by the late Gordon Messing in my secondhand copy of Jasper Griffin's Homer on Life and Death. Despite Messing's stature as a scholar, there was nothing in the notes worth keeping. At least Messing's notes were in pencil, although they were on virtually every page.
I'm not a violent man by nature, but I could throttle the swine who disfigure library books with their inane scribbles. The inventor of yellow markers, too, deserves a place in the lowest circle of the bibliomaniac's hell.
I'm more indulgent towards the owner's name inside the front cover. My copy of J.D. Duff's commentary on Juvenal is inscribed:
U.C.N.W.The rest of the book is in pristine condition.
Austin M. Thomas
Treborth Hall Farm
Occasionally I make light pencil marks in the books I own, a tick in the margin next to something interesting, or a list of page numbers inside the back cover. If my books survive my death (rather than ending up in a landfill), it will be an easy matter for the next owner to get rid of my pencil marks.
I was also interested to learn that Patrick has "backup" copies of works like Tristram Shandy. I have three copies of the "little Liddell," one for the study, one for the bedroom, and one for the living room. I need only one more, for the bathroom. Even if I don't need a duplicate of a favorite book, I sometimes buy one anyway if the price is right. I figure I can give it a good home, where it will be appreciated and well cared for.